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The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Contents Page
The Inquisition by Ronan McDonnell - Semper Quarens - Always Looking

Anybody’s Son

A trio of soldiers parading in Moscow in the 1980s

Soldiers in Cold War-era Red Square

In 1983 the National Film Board of Canada commissioned a film-maker called Gwynne Dyer to make a miniseries called War: A Commentary. The series is 8 hours long in full.

Episode two, entitled Anybody’s Son Will Do, focuses on what Gwynne Dwyer referred to as the lack of a natural instinct in most young men to kill or die for someone else’s ideas.

The film opens with the film-maker’s thought on the re-programming and dehumanising regimes involved in the training of new recruits. The film-maker is ex-navy and so has ome personal experience of the procedures. The idea is posited that military training is aimed controlling young men and making them do things that are inherently unnatural, such as conquering phobias, acting in unison and, ultimately, killing. Of course, the film takes it as a given that killing is unnatural, although evidence from the animal kingdom does not necessarily bear this out.

The film follows the training procedure in the US military that indoctrinates these young men to bring them to this point. In doing so it becomes a film not just about the military, but in turn about the wider uses of psychological conditioning and influence, and our susceptibility to act outside of our own will.

Servility is not inherent in us. We are all predisposed to find our our way through life, relishing the challenge. One might view the movie as an anti-war declaration, but it can also be understood from a wider historical perspective. The film describes more modern incarnations of doctrinal mechanisms that have existed in perpetuity – witness the medieval pages and squires or the romantic obligations of novice samurai.

However, the one thing that does stand out as a legacy since pre-evolutionary times is the changing from being an individual to performing as part of a group, not unlike the aformentioned chimpanzees. Everything done is for the good of this group, the basis of the military; he’s got my back etc. Recruits are stripped of distinguishing haircuts, clothes, jewellery and more. The army is a single entity, full of blanks.

What is particularly eye-opening to the non-military viewer, is how the regimented life is designed to control the recruit, and not primarily to have them performing at their peak. Or maybe we all guessed it, but just needed to hear someone else say it…

As the man says, “If I can train that guy, I can get him to do anything I want him to do.”

Part One of Anybody’s Son Will Do

The Wikipedia entry for the series, War
The IMDB entry for the series, War
Available from Amazon – War, The Lethal Custom
The film is serialised on YouTube
Love and Murder Among the Chimps

This article was posted by on Monday, June 20th, 2011 at 21:34.
It is archived in Culture, History and tagged , , , .

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